Monday, October 24, 2016

Fair skin and Parkinson's

It's been repeatedly observed that fair skin is linked to an increased risk of Parkinson's. Melanin is natural pigment that causes skin to be brown or black. Neuromelanin is a similar molecule that is found in the brain and, while still rather mysterious, appears to help prevent cell death in some parts of the brain. ( Neuromelanin binds to (i.e., chelates) toxic metals, which helps protect the brain from them. (

A study in 2015 found that the lighter someone's skin, the more likely they were to have brain structure abnormalities associated with Parkinson's:

 2015 Nov;30(13):1848-52. doi: 10.1002/mds.26427. Epub 2015 Sep 23.
Light pigmentation phenotype is correlated with increased substantia nigra echogenicity.
This study was undertaken to address the question of whether pigmentation may be mechanistically linked withParkinson's disease.   METHODS:
In a cross-sectional, observational study, 116 healthy subjects received transcranial sonography of the substantia nigra. Pigmentation phenotype was assessed using the Fitzpatrick skin phototype classification, and five additional phenotypic pigmentation traits as well as a photographic method (Melanin index) in a subgroup of 46 subjects.   RESULTS:
Lighter skin phototype was associated with larger echogenic substantia nigra area and increased prevalence of abnormally enlarged echogenic substantia nigra area. The strongest association of substantia nigra echogenicity and phenotypic pigmentation traits was found for hair color and facial tanning.   INTERPRETATION:
Findings suggest an increasing prevalence of structural abnormality of substantia nigra with decreasing darkness of skin and thus may provide additional evidence in favor of a pathogenic link of pigmentation and Parkinson's disease.

Increased echogenicity of the substantia nigra is characteristically seen in Parkinson's disease. ( Not only do I get painful sunburns and have to worry about skin cancer,* but I also have a heightened risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

*Melanoma risk and Parkinson's risk are related -

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